During the conference I share a narrow college room with my ex-girlfriend, so we can go on to Germany together next. Since I last saw her she has climbed Ben Nevis, bought a BSA Regal, got an editor’s job in London. The first afternoon we find a stone path behind the college, scramble to the top of Arthur’s Seat and crouch in the mustard grass. Still breathless, I try to apologise for how it ended back in Brisbane. The wind is cold and bullying so she gives me her jacket, white blonde hair flicks her face and glasses. The city can’t stop falling into low sun. That night I go to a poetry reading, a pub, vinegar sharp, in the Old Town. When I get back she is still awake, cocooned in her sleeping bag. “That smarmy professor who chaired your panel burst in here an hour ago, pissed and naked, tried to get on top of me.” I stare at her in shock. “He was snuffling at my breasts and whining about his wife. I threw him on the floor and made him crawl back outside.” We lie side by side, not touching. Just above her head what looks like a moth squats flat against the wall. A while later she adds “He had the smallest dick I’ve ever seen.” A pause – then we laugh until we ache, lying on our backs again in the yellow grass, the jacarandas, the raw room. She is both anger and generosity, like the ambulance siren at 1.00am. When morning comes there is fog and Arthur’s Seat fills the window like some medieval lord who feels entitled.
Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh
1 October 2015